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  The Third Eye Foundation

Third Eye Foundation and the weird lull that occurs every winter, frustrating musicians that have just made their best record and allowing writers to try to pin them down. A very full-on interview with Matt Elliott. No edits.

1. To me, Little Lost Soul sounds the least synthetic of your recent projects. I certainly don't mean synthetic as an insult as it's a word I would use to describe AFX or ENO (around Another Green World), but the new record to me is your least alien music. Well I don't think you've started writing pro-society anthems but would you agree that this record is slightly less spooked?

I don't think this LP is less spooky; it's definitely less abrasive, largely because I hear enough noise in every day life, I wanted to make a 'beautiful' record. Something a bit sombre, something to melt hearts; that was the intention. Whether or not that is the case I guess I'll find out . This is why I'm nervous.

2. One of the things that impresses me is that a lot of the record sounds like the kind of music that a group of like-minded musicians would make i.e. it seems to have lots of little stylistic nuances. I think it's hard to imagine that it's the work of one person. Do you think about the components of a track having slightly different voices? (Ali G wants to know if that means you is a schizophrenic ?)

That is definitely the way I work. I'd say I'm more than schizophrenic, I have more than two minds, maybe 6. I approach it as if I am a band . Many areas of modern music neglect certain areas, especially sampler orientated bands. I'm also trying to write songs rather than a groove, albeit songs that aren't in the accepted arena so that's probably why it sounds like a band.

3. I'm just so blown away by how round the record sounds. It doesn't seem to have that almost over-technical sophistication that got so vogue, with kids compensating for not having the energy of a group situation by making more and more complex rhythm patterns. Given that this is the most you have sounded like a group, do you think Third Eye Foundation could work with other members? Do you miss the physicality of say, playing a guitar live?

Again, this LP was the most sorted LP I've ever approached. I knew exactly what I wanted it to sound like and somehow it ended up sounding better. I always try and stay away from accepted production techniques because often that dates a record, and generally they do sound a bit cliched, esp. on electronica. I don't think Third Eye Foundation will ever work with anyone, just because I have to be in control. For example I needed guitar on certain pieces so I just played it. One only needs musicians in a live situation. Having said that, I love playing with other musicians. There is no greater feeling than when it just clicks, but I'm thinking of starting a funk band just for a laugh.

4. On the new record the vocals seem a lot more central. I'd say they're sombre but uplifting. What qualities do you look for in a vocal? Are there any singers you'd particularly like to work with?

The vocals were a bit more important on this one, but I quite like just stealing vocals and rearranging them rather than actually getting a vocalist. Generally what I want to say can't necessarily be said in words; it's the voice that is important, not what they say. I'm not human enough to write lyrics anyone would relate to, although I'll be working with a lady rapper in the new year but God knows how that will end up. Sad as it may seem I'd love to do a swingbeat track with some lovely diva, but we'll see.

5. When we spoke on the telephone you said that you were slightly nervous about how 'Little Lost Soul' would be received. You mentioned that you didn't feel the musical climate was particularly good for a record like this. What do you see as the main problems? What can we do to make things better?

I think the problem is that people just don't care about music anymore. They've heard it all, or just want something undemanding like trance; that is the main problem. I will expand on this one when I get more time.

6. One of the things I feel about this record is that it's maybe your first that totally transcends current styles. Before it seemed that you were acknowledging drum and bass or Warp-style electronics. Do you think that certain sounds have become so cliched that they've become a new orthodoxy; a barrier to originality?

That's exactly what I was aiming for, to put some soul back in. I loved the early drum+bass thing, but now as ever, it all gets watered down. I really think this LP is the one I've been trying to make since I first loved music. I've done all the stuff I thought I wanted to do. I got lost along the way thinking too much about what other people wanted. This is the first one, uncensored, straight from my heart. On this one I tried not to use reference points, just sounds.

7. In The Wire magazine Kevin Shields recently said that one of the main things about MBV was a kind of heavy femininity that is contradictory to most rock music. Do you think 'Little Lost Soul' is your most female record and in a way equally contradictory to the new male orthodoxy of boys with samplers, gimping around in their bedrooms, and wetting themselves over the latest Skam release?

I've never thought of it as a feminine record, but you might have a point. There is a feminine side of me which I am not afraid of. Again I wanted it to not matter who recorded it. But I have been listening to a few records made on the boys toys, by ladies (Foehn, Leila, Neotropic etc) and I tend to like them more, because they tend to express without too much self censorship. Also they generally find a different way of making stuff work/getting their head round the gear, and put expression before programming.

8. I sort of know what you mean about wanting to have a funk group or to make a swing-beat record. Don't you think everyone should try to be a little sexier?

Not sure whether people should be sexier, I think some people try too hard. With Sly Stone etc, they couldn't help being sexy but there's a thin line between being sexy and embarrassing yoself.

9. What is the mood in Bristol just now? We don't feel we get to read about it just so much. Was it frustrating that FSA/Movietone/Third Eye was so under-documented compared to the media-frenzy over Massive Attack/Tricky and subsequent coffee-table trip-hop scene? How do you feel that whole wave of music stands up in retrospect? The famous stuff...

Bristol is boring at the moment; the students have taken over and you can't spit without hitting 2 musicians and 7 djs. I never thought I would compete with Massiveportistricky; they are the major players, and make music for mass consumption, but I have lots of respect because they changed pop music forever and have almost a punk ethic. Did you see the help Bosnian war child video thing a couple of years back? Everyone's video was them in the studio sort of thing, 'oooooh look at me'. Then Portishead's video comes on, and they took like a tourists video showing all nice beaches the weather, nice tourist attractions etc, then interlaced war footage. It was fucking brilliant; it summed up the war and how it effects a place and its people. To me that's definitely punk. Things are a bit slow here; I think the Bristol thing is over to be honest, but it will surface again. There will always be a grassroots Bristol attitude that people outside don't get to see or hear; it's the hiphoppunk attitude. The older stuff is the best, although Mezzanine is my favourite Massive LP. That new Tricky record is rubbish though, which is a shame cos I had a lot of respect for him. Never mind.

10. Matt, you don't stand still. Have you got a million projects lined up between now and 'Little Lost Soul' finally hitting the shops?

I'm just doing a couple of gigs, then lots of time off to consider my options. This will be the first time I'm completely free of obligation and although I'll get really bored, I intend to enjoy it.

11. I like what you said about the Bristol musicians. There's such a fast turnover of music and ideas just now that everyone wants to be the first to declare something unhip. It's like a race to replace one cliche with another. Which 20th century music would we be wise to take with us into this century?

That is a tricky one; there is too much music that is amazing from before this century, let alone this one, but saying that we'll end up with happy hardcore, to be honest. I don't know what people want; I've spent a lot of time thinking about what people like to listen to and why, and just when I think I might have sussed it, out Eiffel 65 come on the telly and I just think, hey? I'm not sure what's happened, I think people have stopped looking for music the way they used to, maybe there is too much choice and people just go for Cafe Del Mar as their monthly record cause they saw it in The Guardian. I truly think that music lovers are a dying breed.

12. You do seem bored with some aspects of Bristol. I was wondering if you're thinking of moving to another city or the countryside. Although I doubt it would be your thing, I always thought, 'In Bath with a Path' had some potential as a title...

I am constantly thinking I've got to get the fuck out of this place, but when I am away I always miss it. A part of me thinks it is the greatest place on earth, but then the students come back (I've nothing against students but the ones we get in Bristol are generally horrible). I'd love to move to the country but I cannot afford it; I always think, see what happens next year. Unfortunately not much happens, but I'll see what happens next year I guess.

13. Do you miss Planet Records? I know I do. Was it a special time when everyone met up and started putting out their first records? Do you see any similarities between 555 in Leeds and the way Planet was in 1994/95?

I really really miss Planet. It was a golden time in Bristol and was my saving grace on many an occasion, at a very troubled time in my life. Rick (Richard King), apart from anything else, is a great motivator; he's always like, 'come on'. We were all a lot younger in spirit as well as body. I greatly resent the falling apart of Planet. I think it could have been the greatest label of all time, but such is life. I see a great many similarities with 555. It is always good to see the Leeds crew. They are one of the few groups of musicians who don't have their heads up their arse. Without wanting to get too personal, I've seen good people destroyed cause they got a record out; they think they're the saviour of music. I've lost a lot of good friends that way, although many people I'm sure would tell you that my head's wedged firmly up my own arse.

14. What morals do you apply to the business side of releasing music? What do you look for from a label?

I used to be really reactionary and moralistic, but I'm much more realistic. The main priority from a label is how well they treat you, not financially necessarily just generally. Unfortunately you can't always tell until it is too late. I think in many respects it is better to put one's own stuff out, then you see what is involved and you have greater control. It is what I advise all budding musicians to do, if they ask.

15. Are you a religious person Matt? I suppose I was thinking about some of your artwork although maybe I'd think of you as more Old Testament, if anything.

I was brought up religious; my mother veered from Catholicism to Russian Orthodoxy. I preferred the Russian Church cause it had nice music, and at 5 or 6 it makes quite an impression. Unfortunately a side effect is guilt although I'm dealing with that. I love the imagery of religions and the fact it has inspired great art and music. All religion interests me just because they are generally good stories. I know about most world religion, but I haven't got round to Sikhism yet. Fundamentally I hate all organised religion because of the hierarchy business. I think it's fine to base a religion on any book, but you have to make your own conclusions. I could go on forever about this. I am religious, but I'm not a Christian. Will explain further next time see you.